Stop me if you've heard this one before. UNC has a lead late in the 4th quarter at home against a ranked divisional opponent in a nationally-televised game but the defense can't get off the field and gives up a late score to lose in agonizing fashion.
Saturday's game against Duke ended in much the same fashion as the Miami game six weeks earlier, with Carolina on the wrong end of a close loss and a missed opportunity to possibly put the game away looming large. Against the Hurricanes, it was the bizarre 3rd and 1 play; versus the Blue Devils, it was Tre Boston dropping a sure interception. As hard as it is to believe, those two plays likely stood between the Tar Heels and a trip to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. In other words, if UNC holds the two leads they had at home with under 3 minutes to play, they are the outright Coastal Division champions. But has been the way things have gone for the Heels this season, they don't catch the breaks and drop both games.
With that in mind, here is the missed opportunity edition of the GBU Report:
Eric Ebron: Ebron had five receptions for 121 yards,including a career-long 79 yarder. Ebron set the ACC single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 895.
Rushing offense: UNC ran for 225 yards on the ground, including 104 and two touchdowns for quarterback Marquise Williams. Perhaps more important, and something that bodes well for the future, is that Carolina only gave up one tackle for loss on the day, and that for only one yard.
Quinshad Davis: After an up-and-down season, Davis finished with 10 touchdown receptions, the 3rd-highest season total in school history.
Tommy Hibbard: Hibbard punted for an average of 46.2 yards and put 3 of his 4 punts inside the 20. Hibbard also passed for a 2-point conversion. Hibbard was one of the league's best punters, particularly late in the season. It is a shame he was passed over for All-ACC honors.
Marquise Williams' passing: The knock on Williams this season, first as he alternated time with Bryn Renner, and later when he took over after Renner's injury, was that his passing ability was less than accurate. Williams' accuracy issues seemed to be alleviated when he passed for over 400 yards last week, but on Saturday Williams was out of rhythm and misfiring all afternoon. He completed less than 50% of his passes and threw two bad interceptions. Moreover, on 3rd and more than 5, he was only 2-6 for 2 yards.
Russell Bodine: Has any Tar Heel had a rougher November than the normally steady Bodine? He racked up a number of holding penalties in the games leading up to Saturday, and his unsportsmanlike penalty late in the 4th quarter cost Carolina a chance to score a touchdown and possibly put the game away. Bodine and Larry Fedora argued that there was no whistle when Bodine was flagged and the replay would seem to agree. But the penalty was called dead-ball, costing both 15 yards and the down, turning 3rd and 2 at the Duke 9 yard line into 3rd and 17.
Defensive pressure: Carolina's defensive front did not generate much pressure against Anthony Boone, allowing him to carve up the Heels for 274 yards on 23-34 passing.
3rd downs: UNC was simultaneously awful on 3rd down offense and 3rd down defense. The Tar Heels went 2-12 on 3rd down and didn't convert their first one until well into the second half. Meanwhile, on defense, Carolina allowed Duke to convert 8 of 15 chances.
Penalties: One of the ACC's most penalized teams, Carolina lived up to the billing, racking up 9 flags for 85 yards, including two on kickoff returns and two more unsportsmanlike calls.
Ultimately, your outlook on the season likely depends on whether or not you are a glass is half-full or half-empty kind of person. On the one hand, UNC flipped a 1-5 start to 5-1 in the back half of the season, but 6-6 seems disappointing. The six teams that beat UNC had a combined record of 53-19, and the four ACC losses were by a combined 24 points. Yet Carolina had a second half lead in three of the four losses, and as mentioned above, if the Tar Heels can hold the two leads they had at home with under three minutes to play, UNC is 6-2 in the league and headed to Charlotte. UNC was so thin on defense that a tight end had to be converted to a linebacker, and on offense, 42 of 50 touchdowns this season were scored by freshmen or sophomores. Nevertheless, Carolina is bowl-bound and the extra practice time will benefit the young players that have been so beneficial to UNC's success this season.